Oil prices collapse; Debating a 'bridge fuel'; Power in Africa [Recharge]

The oil prices free fall is a sign of dramatic changes in global fuel flows. A new study reignites a debate over the role of natural gas as a 'bridge fuel.' Expanding electricity access across Africa will require significant new investments, according to a new report. Catch up on the latest in global energy with Recharge.  

Altaf Qadri/AP
An Indian worker hands over a receipt to a customer after filling his car at a petrol station in New Delhi, India, Thursday. A sudden plunge in oil prices is good news for Indian drivers.

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Free fallCollapsed oil prices are more sea change than selloff. Booming US production has overtaken a developed world that doesn't need oil like it once did. Saudi Arabia is content to watch it slide, more worried about market share than profit margin. The trend could reverse with a disruption in Libya or elsewhere. But the price floor is unclear, and the swing barrels are in US shale.

Bridge fuel: Cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas phases out carbon-heavy coal, but it also slows the spread of more-expensive zero-carbon solar and nuclear. That, concludes a study published Thursday in Nature, is why "in the absence of climate policies, abundant gas alone is not going to solve climate change." But with policy intervention and expanded investment in clean energy innovation, natural gas might be a critical step on a long-term trajectory of energy progress.

600 millionThe energy boom poised to ripple across Africa needs significant new investments in the continent's energy sector, according to a new IEA report. The challenge will be in responsibly managing all the new oil, gas, and renewables, and learning from the checkered history of resource extraction in Africa. Done well, the boom will benefit hundreds of millions of Africans still in the dark.

In the pipeline

Drill deeper

As oil prices fall, which leaders rise? [The Christian Science Monitor]
"When world oil prices fall fast and far ... the effect is often met with jubilation or tribulation," writes the Monitor's editorial board. "Consumers rejoice. But oil producers retrench. For oil-abundant countries, however, there is another effect: They are left exposed in how well they govern themselves."


Has Lockheed Martin really made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology? [The Guardian]
Arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced major progress Wednesday in nuclear fusion – a promising technology that creates energy without unleashing the radioactive waste of today's nuclear fission. But nuclear fusion has long been the energy technology that's only a decade away, and there's little in Lockheed's announcement to convince scientists they're bringing it any closer to reality.

Obama's Climate Diplomat Explains What a Paris Emissions Deal Should Look Like [National Journal]
What will 2015's international climate deal look like? US climate envoy Todd Stern offered his vision Tuesday: a pact without binding emissions reductions, but with a binding schedule for progress. Mr. Stern will represent the US in preliminary talks this December, in hopes that a successful agreement will come out of next year's Paris meeting.

Energy sources

  • CTI: "86% of [sampled fossil fuel] companies consider climate change to pose physical risks, while 99% of the sample deem climate-related regulation to be a risk ... 80% of oil and gas companies did not display evidence of running climate scenario analyses of different temperature increases due to climate change, with only 10% of companies going on to stress-test projects against conditions similar to a 2°C future."
  • E2e: "Should we believe claims that energy efficiency improvements lead to an increase in energy use? ... Rather than consider the rebound effect as a deterrent from passing energy efficiency policies, policymakers should include these societal gains in the tally of benefits of a policy."
  • Columbia SIPA CGEP: "A weak global market and Saudi Arabia’s apparent unwillingness thus far to play the swing supplier role implies the US oil production expansion, the largest if not only significant positive economic development in recent years, may come under threat. "

From oil prices to Ukraine gas talks to climate change, Recharge delivers global energy's big ideas to your inbox each Saturday. Subscribe for free.

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